CUCUMBER AGUA FRESCA

I've just come back from Barcelona so this refreshing recipe seems sort of fitting. Instagram is my favourite place to get inspiration but it can be a little heart wrenching when your feed is full of people posting pictures from a tropical island (putting my hands up, I've been guilty of that!). Agua fresca is a popular, Mexican soft drink that is based on fruit, sugar and water - all good things in my book!

If you have a juicer, this recipe will be super easy, but I just used a regular food processor and it all worked out fine too. My recipe probably isn't all that traditional as I didn't add as much sugar as the recipes I found suggested, but it is super refreshing and I can just imagine myself sipping one of these while sitting at a roadside taqueria. 

To make 1 medium jug:
2 whole cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
Large bunch of mint
5cm piece if ginger, peeled
1/4 cup sugar*
Water and ice

If you're using a blender/food processor, throw everything except the ice in and blitz until smooth. Then strain and pour over ice into a large jug. If you have a juicer, pass the cucumber, mint and ginger through the juicer and mix in the jug with the water and sugar before adding ice.

*You can adjust the sugar to taste. I wasn't expecting to want any sugar but as this recipe doesn't include any fruit, a little was needed. If you would prefer not to use any sugar, add a few green apples or a splash of pineapple juice.




HELLO FROM BARCELONA!



Hola! I've been in Barcelona for the weekend with my friends and it is so relaxing and so fun. We're staying in La Barceloneta, which is the neighbourhood on the beach. It's so different to your average holiday resort; there's no tacky souvenir shops or naff restaurants, just great food and awesome design. I'm hoping to share a mini guide when I get back but we've been relaxing so much I haven't even taken any pictures! It's our last full day today so I'll be at the beach working on my tan! AdiĆ³s!

#FDBLOGGERSGTK: get to know sprunting!

I don't usually go in for these types of blogger questionnaire things, but Ala from This Particular tagged me in the #fdbloggers 'get to know' round-up and I thought it would be fun to look back at my blog now I've been writing it for about a year and a half. 



What was your reason for starting a blog? I'm a fashion writer, but my big passion is food. I started Sprunting! as a space for the things I love to eat. I've always kept some kind of online journal but this is the first time I've really stuck at it - I think it shows how much I love it, that I spend lots of my weekends 'working' on it. I'm proud of how much my photography and food styling have improved and I'd love for my blog to one day help me get my dream job. 

What’s the dish you’re most proud of? My lemon cake with rosewater cream and jellied blackberries (above). This recipe is going to be making another appearance on the blog soon as I am due to be on TV this autumn! I'll keep you posted :)



What one kitchen utensil could you not live without? I'm pretty low-key when it comes to cooking. My brother gave me a Le Creuset non-stick frying pan and it's invaluable; my blue Falconware dishes (also from my brother!) are another favourite and I use them all the time for styling on my blog.




You’re stranded on a desert island. What three ingredients do you take with you? Eggs! As long as you have eggs to hand, you will always have a good meal. But realistically, I wouldn't be able to cook them and if I was actually stranded it would have to be sea salt, pepper and potatoes; I would drink fresh coconut water all day and barbecue fish and roast potatoes with plenty of chilli and seasonings. I think I'd be pretty good at foraging!



Who do you take inspiration from? I'm always thinking about food, so my ideas usually come from a craving for a specific ingredient and then a bit of googling. Jamie Oliver is my favourite chef, but I find it hard to stick to recipes by the letter (which is why I started my cookbook challenge) - I'm always adding a little something here and there.

Your favourite social media platform? Instagram. I'm totally obsessed, to the point that I think I need to take a step back. I regularly look back through my feed and I like remembering the little moments you usually forget about (although let's be honest...I could never forgot about this pulled pork!)



Biggest disaster in the kitchen? Hmm, I wouldn't say anything has ever gone terribly wrong before (famous last words), but my worst experience in the kitchen was thinking of a dish for the interview stage of the TV show I mentioned before; I had one night to think up a dish and practice it before I had to take my dish in and I made crispy fennel belly pork with butternut squash, toasted kale and pine nuts served as mini tacos. Everything tasted good separately, but together it just didn't work. I'd spent all night in the kitchen (not to mention lots of money on the ingredients) and I was so frustrated. In the end I decided to take my lemon cake, so I'm glad it worked out that way in the end!

Favourite spot for coffee? The place I get coffee from most is a place near my work who do Union coffee. If you see ever see a sign for Union coffee, you're almost guaranteed a good cup. My favourite place to go out for coffee is Brickwood in Clapham for their amazing mochas and banana bread with espresso butter. 



Favourite food photo you’ve taken? Once I switched out the kit lens on my camera for a 35mm one, my pictures have been so much better as it lets in so much more light. I've been so much happier with my photos ever since and I feel like my styling keeps getting better, but I definitely have a soft spot for the elderflower and cucumber coolers I made. It was one of those things where I really didn't have to do much...the photos just worked like magic. I also thought my mini blackberry and lemon cakes came out really well. 





 What would you say was your most successful blog post and why? My most viewed post is Deliciously Ella's lentil bolognese, but I can't take credit for that! My recipe for a virgin Bloody Mary that I called a Coco Mary, because I made it with coconut water, was also a landmark for me; Vita Coco loved my images, posted them on their social media and sent me a lovely box of coconut water! That was the first time that a brand got in touch with me thanks to my blog, so it was definitely memorable.



In the spirit of this (not so) little foodie community, I'm passing the baton to two food bloggers I'd love to get to know a little bit more about: 

Rosie from A Little Lusciousness
Sally from The Cafe Cat
Katie from BeNourishd

Thanks for tagging me, Ala! I loved answering these questions and I was struggling to think of something to post this week ;)

LINDT LOVE-IN: fig, prosciutto + ricotta bruschetta

When you get a box of chocolate in the post,  you know it's going to be a good day! Lindt kindly sent over a few bars of their Lindt Excellence chocolate to play around with and suggested it would be fun to create a savoury recipe. I've heard of chocolate melted into pots of steaming chilli and even chocolate-spiked barbecue sauce, but there's probably a reason that chocolate doesn't crop up much in everyday dinners! I think this recipe works, though, plus it's super easy, but looks like quite a show-stopper.


From the selection that Lindt sent over, it was the 99% cocoa that piqued my interest; I love dark chocolate but this stuff is serious! It's an acquired taste - I tried a square on its own and didn't enjoy it the first time, but the second time it was much more palatable. Because there's hardly anything but cocoa in it, it's very sharp and almost powdery, so I knew it would lend itself perfectly to this recipe.

I'd never had ricotta on its own before but I could eat this stuff by the tub. The creaminess is neither sweet nor salty, so the prosciutto lends a dose of almost umami savouriness, while the fig brings a subtle sweetness. The chocolate, coated in a fine layer around the fig, is intriguing and I think these bruschetta would make a great party opener.




To make the chocolate-dipped figs
1 bar Lind Excellence 99% cocoa chocolate
Small figs

Place half the bar of chocolate in a glass bowl and set it on top of a pan of simmering water. As the chocolate melts, stir gently and slowly add small pieces of the rest of the bar. Take the bowl off the pan when the chocolate is almost all melted and stir until the remainder has dissolved completely.

I tried the figs a few ways but I think the prettiest result is to slice them in half and then dip them into the melted chocolate, only submerging about a third to half of the way up. Place on a sheet of greaseproof paper and cool in the fridge (or freezer, if you're in a hurry). I sprinkled mine with coarse sea salt, but realised afterwards that the prosciutto is salty enough and I would recommend serving without.



To make the bruschetta, toast small slices of bread - I used a tiger loaf. Spread with a spoonful of ricotta, layer half a slice of prosciutto over the top and finish with the chocolate-dipped fig. Peppery rocket makes a pretty garnish.

INTERIORS INSPO: patterned tiles

I came back from visiting my friend's new place at the weekend and knew I had to get something down on the blog, stat! Her bathroom had the most lovely tiled floor and after spending a few hours down the rabbit hole on Pinterest, it's something I wish I'd thought of when we did our bathroom. See, the thing about patterned tiles is that they seem bold and brash but they can slot so easily into any decor theme; mismatched with furniture and fixtures they can be rustic and eclectic, bolstered with navy and white they can be calming and whether they're used as a statement or served in a small dose as an eye-catching accent, they command attention without overpowering everything else.







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COINTREAU COCONUT ICE

There was a nearly empty bottle of Cointreau and a somewhat forgotten-about ice cream maker giving me the eyes the other weekend, so I did a little googling and a little experimenting and it turns out you can make a pretty decent 'ice cream' with just coconut milk and some sugar. All things considered, sweet coconut isn't all that exciting, but add in a dash of liquor and it can take on a starring role.


Most of the recipes I found online called for about a cup of sugar per can of coconut milk. I'm not exactly a health nut, but that is a ridiculous amount of sugar considering it would make enough for 1 to 2 people! I toned it down a lot and I'm confident that this version is just as tasty...and a lot easier on the waistline!

Serves 2
1 tin of full-fat coconut milk
50ml Cointreau 
Juice of 2 limes
2tbsp sugar
1tbsp coconut syrup


If the coconut milk has a solid layer on the top, blend all of the ingredients in a blender for a few seconds until fully combined. If there's no layer, you can just mix the ingredients together in a jug.  Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn according to instructions. This produces a (very) soft serve which is tasty eaten straight away over a bowl of fruit. For a firmer ice cream texture, freeze in a shallow dish for 30 minutes to an hour. This is best eaten on the day you make it as if it's frozen for too long it gets very hard. If you would like to eat it another day, it needs to thaw for about half an hour before serving.

The texture is somewhere between a sno cone and frozen yoghurt, and the result is tangy and fresh with a nice kick from the booze. It does melt fairly quickly, so I popped my bowls in the freezer for half an hour to keep it frozen just that little bit longer.



MY MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD


By the content of this blog, I should think it's fairly obvious that I love to cook and I love to eat, but my relationship with food runs deeper than that. Food is the ever-present love of my life and the anchor against which all my memories are tethered. Trying to conjure a memory that doesn't involve food is somewhat of a challenge and it’s this that brings meaning to my relationship with food.

Yes, food is fuel in a physical sense, but it's also the life blood behind relationships and emotions. Why else do you think that chicken soup is the remedy for all ills - from flu to break-ups - in more than one country/culture/religion and why does a sandwich always taste better when someone makes it for you. Spaghetti and meatballs can never just be spaghetti and meatballs once you’ve happily twirled it around your fork, slurping away in homage to Lady and the Tramp; lobster won’t continue to be just another fancy dinner once you’ve cracked it open with your hands and shovelled it into your mouth, dripping with butter, overlooking the Atlantic ocean; no matter that you made countless lemon drizzle cakes working every weekend in a cafe for two years when it also happens to be the cake that puts a certain twinkle in your dad’s eye. Perhaps I’m over-romanticising, but when I think about how I love food, why I love food, it’s never because it simply tastes delicious. For me, any dish that is truly delicious - whether it’s a special birthday meal or just another Thursday night at home - becomes a memory in itself and that is why it means so much to me. 

I can’t put a finger on how I came to feel this way, but I suppose it’s because my mum has always had an emotional connection to food. Perhaps it’s her Asian heritage - where when you visit relatives they don’t ask ‘how are you’, they ask ‘have you eaten?’ - that made food her love language. My mum left Kuala Lumpur at 18 to study in London and, for her, the Cantonese restaurants she lived above in Bayswater meant home was never far away. When I visit family in Kuala Lumpur, and eat my favourite noodles, I feel connected to her childhood memories of food, probably because she did so herself many times while living on the other side of the world. 

In fact, food is what’s taking us to Tokyo in September. My parents have lived there on and off for the whole of their married lives; I was born there and lived there again from the age of 10 to 14. Actually, I never much liked living there. It felt uncomfortable to be neither here nor there, looking like I might be half Japanese but never managing to master the language. Darren, on the other hand, has a voracious fascination with the country, having devoured anime cartoons and comic books as a teenager and visiting my parents once with me about 6 years ago. I couldn’t think of a reason I would ever want to go back, now my parents are firmly transplanted back in the UK, but once I started thinking about the food, I couldn’t think of a reason not to. Crispy tonkatsu, skyscrapers made of coloured plates at the conveyor belt sushi, bowl after bowl of silky ramen, triangular onigiri from the konbini. In our heads we've been planning meal after meal, sometimes 5 or 6 a day, and when I think of each and every dish, I somehow fall in love with a place that never quite had a hold on my heart. 

I think I could write this blog post forever so every now and then, as a sort-of series, I want to start sharing recipes and dishes that have a hold on my life, for some reason or another. And, if you like that sort of thing, please make sure you read the books in this reading list round-up; they’re all favourites I read again and again, whether I'm happy or sad, to feel a twinge of nostalgia for someone else's food memories.

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